Loyola Pledges to Divest from Fossil Fuels After Years of Student Organizing

Zack Miller | The PhoenixLoyola, after years of talk, outlines plans to divest in certain companies that support fossil fuel.

Loyola is pledging to divest from companies that profit from fossil fuels after years of student activism. 

Loyola announced in an Oct. 14 email its Sustainable Investment Policy was approved by the Board of Trustees and Loyola’s senior leadership.

The new policy outlines plans to divest from companies that get a majority of their revenue from fossil fuels and aren’t transitioning to clean energy sources, according to the email. The email stated this will further the university’s commitments to sustainability and addressing the ongoing global climate crisis.

An estimated 2.5% of Loyola’s endowment is currently invested in the fossil fuel sector, Chief Financial Officer Katharine Wyatt said in a statement to The Phoenix. Wyatt said the university also expects investments in coal, oil, and gas to shrink substantially by 2030.

The policy establishes a strategy of investing in companies that are working to reduce carbon emissions and address climate change. 

It also calls for the integration of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) considerations into Loyola’s investment mandates, the email said.

“We view the climate crisis as one that all citizens have an urgent responsibility to address,” the email said. “As we transition our campuses and infrastructure, we must also use our resources to ensure the proper financial incentives exist to transition those who use fossil fuels to greener sources of energy.”

Fossil fuels are made from decomposing plants and animals found in the Earth’s crust and contain carbon and hydrogen, which can be burned for energy. Examples of fossil fuels include coal, oil and natural gas, according to National Geographic.

When fossil fuels are burned, they release carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases which in turn trap heat in the atmosphere, making them a primary contributor to global warming and climate change, according to National Geographic.

Loyola’s student government has been pushing for the university to divest from these companies since 2012, The Phoenix reported.

Back in 2015, Loyola’s Senate in a 15-1 vote recommended Loyola immediately freeze any new investment in fossil fuel companies and divest from direct ownership within 18 months. The decision also pushed for the university to explore other more responsible investments in renewable energy and to divest from any funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds, The Phoenix reported.

More recently in 2020, the Student Government of Loyola Chicago (SGLC) passed a resolution in a 20-0 vote that called for Loyola to stop investing in fossil fuels within two years, The Phoenix reported. This email was Loyola’s first acknowledgement of the issue.

SGLC didn’t respond to The Phoenix for an interview.

“The University has already sold out of some fossil fuel-related positions and will divest the remaining holdings in a financially responsible yet expeditious timeframe,” Wyatt said. “Importantly, no new direct investments in fossil fuels will be made by the University.”

Head of the Fossil Free LUC campaign and secretary for Student Environmental Alliance (SEA) — which advocates for environmental change throughout the university — Claudia Kern said this is important because Loyola preaches their love for the planet and sustainability and Jesuit values. They want the university to be held responsible for having some irresponsible investments.

Kern, who’s majoring in biology with an emphasis on ecology, said she became involved in the campaign in spring of 2019.

“I have mixed reactions about the email,” Kern, 22, said. “It’s good to see that they picked up on the issue, but SEA and SGLC weren’t even mentioned in it and no timeline was given as to when they will pull out all of the investments in the companies.”

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